Shooting at the moon

Meet me on the dark side of the moon.

I’m not going to post a zillion pictures today. I’m tired, and I only took half a zillion pictures. I think I’ll just leave you with this one.

Professional photographers, if they are nice people, share their recipes for how to get certain shots. I’ve just been reading some of those recipes. Every shot requires a certain combination of shutter speed, aperture size, and ISO (or light sensitivity). Then there are things like lenses and filters and focal points and white balances and so on. What ingredients are you going to use? How long are you going to cook that picture? At what temperature?

I love reading these recipes, and I always get ideas from them, and when I’m serious about doing the job right, I follow them.

Often, though, I’m just fooling around to see what will happen. We never used recipes in my house growing up. We read a lot of cookbooks, but when we started cooking, we mostly just fooled around to see what would happen. Lots of times we used respectable ingredients to create meals from scratch, but lots of other times, we banged open a can of biscuits.

This photograph came from a can of bang biscuits. I don’t suppose that means there isn’t a recipe to share, though, so I’m going to tell you how I did this.

I took this shot handheld (look, Ma, no tripod) with a point-and-shoot camera. It’s a superzoom camera (a Sony HX400V), but it is still a point-and-shoot, meaning that it’s made to operate on fully automatic pretty much all of the time. It’s supposed to take nice looking pictures for people who don’t know or don’t have time to care where all of the camera settings are.

If you would like to take pictures of the moon that show some detail, and you want to do it handheld with a point-and-shoot, here’s one little trick you need to know. Take the photograph while it is still daylight. This one was shot in the daylight. That’s why it was able to pick up that much detail even though I only used the canned biscuits approach. The camera was on fully automatic, and it was not on a tripod. Not even big fancypants DSLR cameras can shoot the moon in any degree of detail under those circumstances after dark. If the moon is the only bright thing in the sky, it will be blown out in the photo so that you see no details in it whatsoever. There are recipes that will get you an awesomely detailed moon with real camera gear using manual settings and a tripod. But if you are too lazy or too pressed for time to go through all of that, or if you don’t have the gear, try to catch the moon sauntering out in late afternoon before the sun goes down.

So this one was taken in daylight, but it was very grainy and nothing to be particularly proud of, except for the fact that it did pick up some good detail. A DSLR with a fancy lens on a tripod, using settings recommended by a professional will get you much better than this. Homemade bread that you knead a couple of times and let rise for five hours will also taste better than a bang biscuit, but a bang biscuit will fill you up. You just have to put enough jelly on it to make it taste good.

I needed some jelly on my moon shot, so I uploaded it to a free photo editing site called PicMonkey, and I added the Daguerreotype effect, which turned the grainy blue background into a dark background, which was still grainy but dark enough so that the grain wasn’t so obvious. I liked that effect, but it looked odd to have a moon in a dark background with no stars in the sky. I was way too lazy to attempt to make that look natural, so I just slapped a quote about the moon onto it, so it would look like I meant to have a starless sky all along.

And there you have it.

I hope that I use my photo project this year as an opportunity to teach myself new camera skills, but I also hope that I just enjoy doing it. My little moon shot won’t win any awards, but I did have fun creating it. Also, I happen to like the occasional bang biscuit.

In which we all suffer for the art

Lucy Peanut is not impressed with her new outfit.

Today’s dog photo challenge was “all dressed up,” and Lucy Peanut had to endure grave insult because of it. She was not impressed with her new outfit. I had been saving this sweater for excessively cold weather, but after having to model it today, Lucy Peanut informs me that the weather will never be cold enough.


Jack Cat was also busy today keeping the yard clear of neighbor dogs. He may have been trying to protect Lucy Peanut, but it seems more likely that he was establishing a one dog limit for his territory.

My regular photo challenge today was “upside down.” I took that as an opportunity to play with office toys.


The yellow cranes were my second set for the day. My first batch were a bunch of clock watchers.


I have a lot of office time right now because I’m teaching a second eight week class that obviously hasn’t started yet. I’ve been doing most of my crane folding in the office because it is easier to complete them without help from Jack Cat, Stella Calico, and Lucy Peanut. It is also a good office activity. The repetitive process of crane folding sort of puts me into a meditative state, but that’s a good state to be in to work through mental puzzles. I’ve been planning lessons and reading stories I’ve assigned to my students and figuring out how things work while folding those cranes. It’s a good thing. If I didn’t have that little bit of activity to keep me focused on the moment, I would probably get bored and wander out of the office dozens of times during the day.

I’m really not meant to sit still all day. I need to get one of those bicycle work stations in my office. I have room. It would be a better investment than most of the things I purchase on impulse. I feel sure I could pedal and fold cranes and plan lessons at the same time. I could probably pedal and fold cranes and conference with students at the same time. I need to make this happen. Who wants to float me a little bit of cash?

Don’t be sad, sad kitty

Sad Kitty

Stella Calico was stuck inside today, watching Jack Cat and Lucy Peanut play outside. Stella is a shy and skittish kitty and does not go outside, but sometimes she sits in the window looking sad to be left home alone.

To which Lucy Peanut replies…

Wise Puppy

I don’t have anything to add to that. Lucy P has pretty much said it all.

Here are today’s cranes.


I am done now. I have not done all the things today, but I have the tired, and I am done.

Peace and love.

It only takes one

Sunset Parking Space

I chose a random shot for my photo of the day because capturing these random moments is what a photo project is all about.

My cranes for the day were busy reading a literature anthology to prepare for class.


My photo prompt for the day was “hidden treasure.” Alice hid some treasure from herself out of fear that she would no longer fit into her skinny jeans. The fact that this treasure exists I blame on a child and those infernal chocolate fundraisers that are oh so delicious and horrible.

Hidden Treasure

My dog challenge for the day was “words of wisdom.” So far Lucy Peanut hasn’t said anything to me that is repeatable. I came home from work and went right back out again. She peed on the kitchen floor to express her opinion, but I didn’t think anyone wanted to see a photo of that.

Instead of sharing a Lucy pic today, I’m going to revisit and revise my crane shot from yesterday.

Cranes 34-46 Cropped

I cropped this shot so that the birds would show up better. I wanted to write something about this particular image last night, but I was so caught up in saying farewell to David Bowie that I didn’t have the heart to focus on anything else.

The prompt yesterday was “black background.” I set this up in my kitchen and used a witch’s cape left from Halloween as the background. I arranged the cranes, shined a lamp on them, and took 36 shots. I knew how I wanted this to look when I started out. Of the 36 shots, though, only one turned out as I envisioned. Turns out it only takes one. I wanted the cranes to appear to be floating in the dark. So here you go…my colorful birds are floating in the dark. In the words of David Bowie’s last video, “Now ain’t that just like me?”

I’m particularly proud of this one because I colored the design on the cranes myself, so I was involved in three stages of the creative process. I colored the paper. I folded the cranes. And I set up and took the photograph.

My brother gave me a day-by-day pull apart calendar for Christmas that was a perfect square, perfect for origami paper. That gave me the idea to use calendars for my paper crane project, so I went to a bookstore after Christmas and found a 60% off sale on day-by-day calendars. I bought several. One of those is an adult coloring calendar. That’s what I used for these birds.

Lesson of the Day:

It doesn’t matter how many times you fail to get the right shot. It only takes one success.

Peace and love, my friends. Never forget to turn and face the strange.

Grant me the confidence

I believe I can fly

I’ve often been amused by the quote that makes its way around social media from time to time: “Lord grant me the confidence of a mediocre white man.” Because yes. I’ve met those guys. And no. Not all white guys are like that, mediocre or otherwise, but it is a joke, so it’s okay to be amused.

Really, I think anyone, male or female, who has aspired to creative pursuits, has met with condescension from others who pursue the same interests, and it is always frustrating and unnerving, but people who are truly confident don’t have to prove their worth to others and don’t set out to belittle others, so the proper response to being the recipient of artistic condescension is to pity the fool. Confident people encourage others. Only people who are unhappy try to make other people lose confidence.

Lord help me to remember this. Help me to remember when I am doing my job of teaching people new skills that I need to take the time to give encouragement as well as critical feedback. Help me to remember the times people have treated me to condescension when I needed encouragement, and help me not to be that person.

But as for the kind of confidence I want, grant me the confidence of my little bitty puppy. Give her just a little room, and she will run like the wind. Grant me that spirit, please. Let me be all in whenever I’ve committed myself. Let me give everything I have to every moment. Grant me the confidence of that little baby dog.

For your pleasure, a few more shots of Lucy Peanut from today:

Cold Stare

Dog in Charge (1)

Dog in Charge (2)

Dog in Charge (3)

Dog in Charge (4)

I feel pretty

If at first you don’t succeed, try 110 more times.

People say we monkey around.

Today’s dog challenge was “too much is not enough.” I thought about photographing Lucy Peanut with her toys because she does have way too many. Then I got the idea of photographing her with my toys. I have a set of sock monkeys that I keep in a plastic container safely out of LP’s reach. They are the remains of a once and future photo project. Risky business, giving them to a puppy. I was afraid she would rip them to shreds before I could take a single shot. I knew that she was unlikely to sit still enough for a good shot, but I still lived in hope. I put the sock monkey’s on the couch, and Lucy Peanut followed. She was so excited. She went after first one and then another. I took 111 photos, and the one shown here is the closest I could get to something decent. She did not sit still for more than a fraction of a second at a time.

Yes, yes, I do know that I could have increased the shutter speed to try to capture her in action, but I didn’t want to do that because I was in a fairly low light situation, and I would have had to have kicked the ISO way up to increase the shutter speed, which would have meant grainy pictures, so I didn’t go with that option.

This is my example of why I am not a professional photographer. It is also my example of how I end up taking some nice shots anyway sometimes. I try and try and try. That’s the whole story.

Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I change my whole plan and take a another 111 shots.

Today, I did not get what I wanted, but I decided I would have to make the most of it, and that’s okay too.

My other shots for today:

Alice is feeling forceful.

This was taken in my office. I used a sticky strip to make the light saber stand up, and I set Alice beside it. This shot serves no purpose except to amuse me, and I’ve decided that my own amusement is an important goal for my photography.


This was also taken in my office. I worked on school stuff until about 3:00, and then I used my office for a playroom. I folded my three paper cranes for the day and paired them with a little flamingo bobble-head. One should always keep bobble-heads in the office for just such an occasion.

Because I’ve just moved to a new office, my desk is clean. It is a big wooden desk that has a glass covering across the top. The glass created the reflection.

This is why I love photography. I don’t always know what I’m going to get until I start playing around with it. I didn’t see the reflection until I looked at the scene through the viewfinder. Once I did that, I knew that I was entering a little magical make-believe world that I had somehow created right there on my desk. These little magical worlds are everywhere, but we don’t see them until we start trying to capture them.

Lesson of the day:

If at first you don’t succeed, try 110 more times. Once you get it right, no one will know how many failures you left in your wake.

She’ll have fun, fun, fun till her grading takes her free time away.

I went to work today, but I didn’t do any work because that hasn’t started yet. Instead, I packed up belongings from my office to move to a bigger office. I need a bigger office because life tends to pile up on me.

My day went like this:

–Went to the office around ten.
–Packed for a couple of hours while listening to an audiobook.
–Took a long lunch with friends.
–Packed for a couple of hours while listening to an audiobook.
–Came home and played with my camera, my dog, and my cat.
–Played around on the computer editing my pictures.
–Talked to a friend on the phone.
–Ate a salad.
–Decided to blog about how this is the job I want every day.

Pretty good day, I’d say. That’s the way it goes, though. It’s all fun and games for the teachers until the students show up. The tricky part is to keep having fun after I have to start grading the stuff I assign. I’ll get back to you on that in a couple of weeks.

So here’s a little roundup of my afternoon photography binge:


These are cranes 13, 14, and 15 out of a planned 1000 for the year.

Cat Tower

I could not have planned for Jack Cat to climb this tree, and if I had thought of it and hoped he would climb it, he would have been nowhere to be found. I put the paper cranes in this tree to photograph them, though, and Jack Cat followed me. He gave me the perfect opportunity to photograph something for today’s prompt of “towering.” Jack Cat considers all trees to be his own personal cat towers.

Did someone say treat?

Today’s dog challenge was “angular.” I wanted to take a photo of Lucy Peanut from a low angle. I thought I could put her on the table and sit on the floor to take a picture of her looking over the edge of the table at me. That scared her so much she just hunkered down in the middle of the table and shivered, so I had to cuddle her for a while and give up. Luckily, she cocked her ear back a little later, and I realized that she had come up with her own plan for an angular shot.

I see a lot of images of pets on Flickr and Instagram where it is clear the shots are posed and taken in a studio setting. I admire the people and the dogs who manage to pull that off. That’s just not the way me and Lucy Peanut roll, though. LP does her own thing her own way at all times, and I just follow along and clean up the poop. That’s what I’m here for.

Drinking straight from the bottle.

Alice of Mississippi is hitting the sauce, and she is hot.

I don’t know why it amuses me so much to take pictures of a jewelry mannequin named Alice, but it is one of my very favorite activities in this world.

Let Go, #2

Memes were one of my happiness projects from a couple of years ago. They lasted for a few weeks, but I’d like to take up a longer term relationship with happiness, so I’m going to get back to the basics of adding motivational quotes to my photos.

Living Vacuum

This photo is actually one I took yesterday, but I’m posting it again today because it made Explore on Flickr. Explore is some sort of mysterious process by which Flickr chooses the images that go into the public pool that people see when they log in or when they do searches for specific cameras and lenses and so forth. I’m not sure that it means anything much to be in Explore. It mostly just means that more people see it. But I still feel like it is a prize, and finding out I had a photo in Explore gave me a nice little boost today.

So there you go. I have photographed all the things. I was able to do that because I didn’t do any actual work today. It was such a good day.

The Year of the Hummingbird and Maybe the Paper Crane

I have to admit that I embarrass myself more often than not. I’m a person who jumps into projects wholeheartedly, and I have a lot to show for that. I just don’t have a lot of what I would consider socially acceptable accomplishments to show. Published books after 25 years as a writer? One. Incomplete manuscripts? Dozens.

I love to blog, and I’ve been doing it since 2005, so you would think I’d have a lot to show, and I do, but of what nature? My life in the blogs looks a lot like my office and my bedroom and my car–random stuff slung everywhere. I did a blog-a-day project a few years ago. I think I went for a year-and-a-half without missing a day of posting to this blog, and I loved it and also felt extraordinarily self-conscious about it. I felt like I was proving to my frenemies that I indeed did not have my life together.

I want to blog again, but I’m not sure I’m up for it. I’m not sure I want to show off more of my inadequacies. I’m also not sure I will be able to see it through. Last year, I started a fiction-writing blog project, and abandoned it after one post because life went topsy-turvy for a while. Life has not promised me not to go topsy-turvy. I do not know what lies ahead or what I can promise to myself and others. I will not make resolutions today.

I will, however, set a few intentions and give myself permission to try and fail and try again. That’s the best most of us can do.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with motivational writers. You know? Those people who think they have it figured out? I’ve always wanted to be one of those people, but at the same time I’ve always known that I did not have it figured out, would probably never have it figured out, and wasn’t sure it was even possible for anyone to truly have it figured out.

I ran across the video posted above recently, though, and I found it inspiring. I recognized myself immediately as a hummingbird, and I decided that’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s okay to be a hummingbird. It’s okay to flit from one thing to another. The only thing it’s not okay to be is a hummingbird who lets the jackhammers of the world convince her not to fly.

You can see the entire talk by Elizabeth Gilbert about creativity and passion and hummingbirds and jackhammers here.

Meanwhile, allow me to share a few of my intentions for 2016:

  • Post a photo-a-day on Flickr
  • Blog more often
  • Revisit old projects
  • Keep up some of the Facebook pages I’ve started in the past
  • Fold 1000 paper cranes
  • Be nicer to myself and others
  • Be as fit and active as I can be without driving myself insane
  • Eat healthy most of the time
  • Create spaces of peace for myself (and those around me) during times of turmoil
  • Embrace my inner hummingbird
  • Play with my puppy
  • Hang out with my cats
  • Hang out with my friends and family
  • Learn to bake bread
  • Write
  • Laugh
  • Show up where I am needed most
  • Get out and about enough to see the beauty in the world around me
  • Read poetry
  • Never let the jackhammers get me down

Here’s a start:

These are my first three cranes of a planned 1000 for the 2016. To reach my goal of 1000 and to make it last most of the year, I plan to average 3 per day. I’m going to photograph them in sets most of the time to keep the project as simple as possible.

The cranes to me represent little prayers for peace and healing and goodwill during tumultuous times. In an election year, it seems to me that daily reminders of peace and goodwill may be necessary.

And that, ultimately, is my primary intention for the year–offer as much peace and harmony and hope and love and goodness as I am able to the world while managing somehow to be as okay with myself as possible.